1/26/22 : Young Guns - 2022 Edition
Finding impact pitchers is at the core of requirements in professional baseball. The ability to shut down the opposition’s offense is a primary key to sustained success. Since I started writing about the Phillies minor league system back in 2015 the club has always attempted to focus on developing pitching. Of course there are a lot of variables in a player’s development to get to the show, pitching in particular has a wide array of challenges. On the current 40 man roster nine of the twenty two pitchers came up thru the Phillies system, another ( Zach Eflin ) spent the latter half of his minor league time with the Phillies.
Recently, perhaps more than any previous period, there has been an emphasis on “high performance” arms whether that equates to velocity or spin - actually it’s a combination of both. There are quite a few hurlers presently at the lower levels of the system who have capabilities of breaking out in 2022 and establishing themselves as potential big leaguers in the coming years. I’m obviously not qualified to evaluate whether they will get there or not but at the least I can tell ya what I’ve observed. Here’s the beginning of a four part series on some of those young men who could very well turn heads this summer and put the Phillies system on the rise in the rankings for those who choose to do that sort of thing and for those who choose to believe what the rankings project 🤪.
RH Mick Abel - 20 years old - 1st round draft choice - 2020 - Jesuit High School - Portland, OR . Mick impressed not only with his big arm capabilities ( 97-99 mph FB ) and composure but also with his friendship, interaction and popularity with his teammates. He’s a perceptive and willing student of pitching who is very coachable. Is learning how to be a complete professional pitcher, in 2021 specifically worked on approaches, location and mix. Has all the tools to have a long and productive pro career at the highest level, we saw him dominate low A hitters with his repertoire - fastball just eats batters up. He was conservatively shut down after his 7/21/21 start with the Threshers with back tightness, didn’t appear in league game action thereafter - pitched in Fall Instructs and seemed completely back to form. He’s ready to go this year and we expect to see big things from him this summer. Mick has only pitched 44 professional innings due to no 2020 season and the caution shown during last year but he will just be 20 years old for most of the coming season, still plenty of time to build up appearances. I would think Jersey Shore bound out of spring camp.
RH Andrew Painter - 18 years old - 2021 1st round draft selection - Calvary Christian, Fort Lauderdale, FL. In his initial pro action Andrew made four appearances in the Florida Complex League ( total of 6 IP ) and didn’t yield a run, he struck out 12 batters with no walks. We saw him work again in Fall Instructs, pitched as advertised, fastball consistently in the upper nineties mph range during instructs with three secondary offerings ( curve, slider & change ). He projects to sit mid nineties as a starter - could be more as he develops, we’ve seen stuff that can seemingly dominate. This season he will pitch the majority of the year as a nineteen year old - likely spends the brunt of the year at Clearwater in Low A ball. Another very approachable young man who is cordial, well received by his teammates and is open to instruction from the coaches in learning his craft.
RH Micah Ottenbreit - 18 years old - 2021 4th round draft selection - Trenton High School , Trenton, MI. We saw him in Fall Instructs, great form and mechanics, well schooled - solid three pitch mix with FB generally in the 89-92 range right now but flashes a couple ticks higher, also has a curve and changeup. Pitched in five FCL contests during the summer. We talked with a scout from the Blue Jays about him and he raved, said there was tremendous upside possible. He’s impressed coaches with his work ethic and abilities, with added strength could progress into much higher velocity, many say that’s very likely. Micah will pitch the entire 2022 season as a teenager, the less aggressive route would be an assignment to extended spring training and then in the FCL summer rotation. However it’s certainly not out of the question that he could hop up to Clearwater with a good spring camp and begin with the Threshers. The Threshers staff was the second youngest in minor league full season play last year - it’s probable to be a young group again this year.
RH Jose Pena Jr - 18 years old - 2021 6th round draft selection - Tampa Prep, Tampa, FL. We saw Jose pitch in both FCL games and Fall Instructs. He’s got big arm capabilities - FB already sits 93/94 and has touched higher. Secondary offerings are a curve and change up, both his FB and secondaries generate a high amount of spin, ball moves like crazy which makes it very difficult for hitters to square up his pitches. Physically mature as a teenager - with even more added strength and conditioning playing an extended pro season shouldn’t be an issue. Attacks on the hill, gets the ball and gets after it, no wasted effort. We got to chat with him briefly in Fall Instructs, very polite and well spoken young man. Jose will be just 18 for half the ‘22 season but his age won’t prohibit him from potentially breaking spring camp with the Clearwater Threshers, he already has the stuff to play full season and with a good camp that’s a real possibility.
RH Jean Cabrera - 20 years old - signed 7/2/19 as an international free agent - Maracay, Venezuela. He posted a 3-2 record and a 1.54 ERA in 13 games ( 52 2/3 IP ) for the 2021 DSL Phillies White division championship team. It earned him the Paul Owens Award as he struck out 61 batters and walked only ten. We saw him pitch in 2021 Fall Instructs - quick worker, easy delivery with a fast ball that sits 93-94 and flashes upwards of 97 mph. He will pitch the entire season as a twenty year old, a missed year of development in 2020 hasn’t seemed to hinder him, likely breaks spring camp as a member of the Clearwater Threshers. It’s gonna be a fun summer in Clearwater watching these young arms.
RH Jaydenn Estanista - 20 years old - signed 11/8/19 as an international free agent - Willemstad, Curacao. Another young hurler we saw him pitch in 2021 Fall Instructs. His deliveries appeared to have great side to side action and had batters lunging and off balance. Outstanding movement on his pitches with a short compact delivery, is well schooled - a tribute to Manny Amador and his Dominican Academy staff in that regards as most of the young hurlers we’ve seen recently coming stateside from the Academy have had very good mechanics. We need to see more of this young hurler, FB generally sits 91-93 but has flashed 94-95 - we could hear the mitt pop all the way from our perch down the right field line during the Fall. Pitched in 10 games in the ‘21 DSL posting a 3.23 ERA in 30 2/3 IP. Jaydenn should be stateside for at least 2022 extended spring training and FCL competition , perhaps even as part of the Threshers staff out of spring camp.
In part two we will profile Andrew Baker, Christian McGowen, Rafael Marcano, Jordi Martinez, Jason Ruffcorn and Dominic Pipkin.
If interested on my thoughts on other players I have profiled every player who played stateside in the Phillies minor league system in 2021 ( that was still with the club as of November ) in my sixth annual minor league digest - The Comeback Season. It can be purchased on Amazon - here’s the link : https://www.amazon.com/Comeback-Season-Annual-Phillies-League/dp/B09MK7XFCG
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️